Friday, September 30, 2022


The next OPC image variation we spotlight here on the blog is Del Unser’s 1977 card, which as all other Montreal Expos players, had OPC going the extra mile for their Canadian players with a different image than Topps’ offering:
OPC Version

Topps Version

Nothing terribly earth-shattering here, just a different posed image that some may consider clearer/cleaner.
Unser put in 15 years in the Majors, coming up with the Washington Senators in 1968 and finishing up with a four-year run with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1982, giving him his one taste of a World Championship in 1980.
In between he also played for the Cleveland Indians in 1972, a first term with the Phillies in 1973/1974, the New York Mets in 1975/1976 and Expos 1976/1978.
All told, he finished with a .258 batting average, with 1344 hits over 1799 games, with 87 homers and 481 runs batted in, with the highlight (besides the championship) would have to be his record setting three consecutive pinch-hit home runs in July of 1979, for which I always remember his “Record Breaker” 1980 Topps card as a kid.

Thursday, September 29, 2022


Today on the blog we have a 1971 "dedicated rookie" for former Houston Astros pitcher Ken Forsch, who made him Big League debut with four starts during the 1970 season:

Forsch went 1-2 with a 5.63 earned run average in his debut, pitching 24 innings and striking out 13, completing one game.
He had a very good sophomore season in 1971, going 8-8 with a 2.53 ERA over 33 appearances, 23 of those starts, tossing two shutouts and putting in 188.1 innings of work.
He'll go on to put in a 16 year Major League career, with a stretch as a reliever between 1974 and 1978 before returning to a starting role in 1979.
In 1981 he'd find himself playing for the California Angels, where he would play the final five years of his career.
Overall, he finished his career with a record of 114-113, with a 3.37 ERA over 521 appearances, 241 of them starts, with 70 complete games, 18 shutouts, 51 saves and 1047 strikeouts over 2127.1 innings pitched, making two All-Star teams and tossing a no-hitter on April 7th of 1979, joining his brother Bob, who also threw a no-hitter just about a year earlier with the St. Louis Cardinals.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Up on the blog today, we have a 1979 “Then & Now” Super Veteran card for former Chicago Cubs All-Star Don Kessinger, who wrapped up a nice Major League career as player-manager with the cross-town White Sox:
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.
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.
In 1969 Kessinger had perhaps his best season in the Big Leagues, collecting a career-best 181 hits, 38 doubles, 53 runs batted in and 109 runs scored.
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, incredibly is STILL managing to this day, which boggles my mind.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022


On the blog today, we take a closer look at an unissued 1977 proof card for former outfielder Gary Matthews, who signed as a Free Agent with the Atlanta Braves after starting his career with the San Francisco Giants:

The former N.L. Rookie of the Year signed with Atlanta on November 17th of 1976, in time for Topps to airbrush him into a Braves Uni for the 1977 set.
n 1973, he would really make his mark, hitting an even .300 with 162 hits over 540 at-bats, with 74 runs scored and 58 runs batted in during the 1973 season.
Those numbers would be good enough to take home the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award, easily finishing ahead of the Montreal Expos Steve Rogers for top freshman honors.
It would pretty much be steady straight from there, as he’d go on to consistently put similar numbers up through his tenures with the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs until he’d retire after a brief stint with the Seattle Mariners in 1987.
By the time he left the game as an active player, he racked up a lifetime .281 average, with 2011 hits and 234 home runs to go with his 1083 runs scored and 978 RBI’s.
He’d also put in some excellent postseason performances, as he’d hit .323 over 19 games with seven home runs and 15 RBIs, including an MVP performance in the NL Championship series while with the Phillies when he hit three homers and drove in eight runs in only four games against the Dodgers, helping the “Wheez Kids” make it to the World Series.

Monday, September 26, 2022


On the blog today, we spotlight by 1970 "In-Game Action" Bill Freehan card from my Series 1 set released a few months back:

It's easy to forget that Freehan was an eleven-time all-star, five-time Gold Glover, and finished in the top-ten in M.V.P. voting three times, with a second place finish in 1968 behind teammate Denny McLain.
1964, his first full year in the Majors, was arguably his finest season, as he hit .300 for the only time in his career along with 18 homers and 80 R.B.I.'s.
But for the rest of his career Freehan put up solid numbers year after year, while taking care of a Detroit pitching staff that featured guys like McLain, Mickey Lolich and Earl Wilson.
He really was ahead of the rest of the pack as far as A.L. catchers during the decade.
A solid player through and through, he'd retire after the 1976 season with a .262 lifetime average, 200 homers and 758 runs batted in over 1774 games and 6073 at-bats.
As far as Major League catchers go, especially for that era, I feel he should be in the Hall, representing that era between Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk in the American League.

Sunday, September 25, 2022


On the blog today, we move on to the American League’s top three pitchers in terms of victories for the 1976 season, shown on an “expanded” 1977 league-leader card:
We begin with Baltimore orioles great Jim Palmer, who paced the A.L. for the second straight year in wins, this time with 22 after leading in 1975 with 23, both seasons leading him to take home the Cy Young Award.
Palmer paired those 22 wins with a 2.51 ERA over 40 starts, with 23 complete games and six shutouts, along with 159 strikeouts over a league-leading 315 innings of work.
This would give him three Cy Young Awards in four seasons, first taking home the award back in 1973 when he also finished second in the MVP race, going 22-9 with a leading 2.40 ERA over 38 games.
Right behind Palmer with 21 wins, “El Tiante” Luis Tiant, who was churning out winning season after winning season for the Boston Red Sox after being pulled from the trash heap back in 1972.
Tiant posted his fourth and final 20-win season, going 21-12 over 38 games, with a 3.06 ERA and three shutouts, his third 20-win season in four years, with just an 18-win season breaking the streak in 1975.
Incredible to think back in 1970, still only 29 years of age, it looked like his career was over after losing 20 games with the Indians in 1969, appearing in only 18 games for the Minnesota twins in 1970, then going 1-7 for Boston in 1971.
1972 saw Tiant return to his great form, leading the A.L. with a 1.91 ERA while going 15-6 over 43 appearances, tossing six shutouts while also saving three, eventually putting in 19 years and winning 229 games.
In third place with 20 wins, another Oriole starter, Wayne Garland, who had his breakthrough season in 1976, and sadly also his breakdown season, going 20-7 over 38 games, with four shutouts and a brilliant 2.67 ERA.
Those numbers got him a big contract with the Cleveland Indians the following year, only to see him falter and lose 19 against 13 wins, with an ERA a full run higher.
Arm troubles derailed his career, never even approaching double-digit wins the rest of the way, retiring in 1981, still only 30 years of age, with 55 wins, almost half the total won in 1976.
There you have the big-three winners of the A.L. for 1976, on an “expanded” league-leader card.
Next week we move on to strikeouts.

Saturday, September 24, 2022


On the blog this fine day, we add the great Negro Leaguer Vic Harris to my long-running "Negro Baseball Leagues All-Time Greats" thread:

Harris' career spanned 26 years, between 1922 and 1947, playing and managing mainly for the Homestead Grays.
Over his extensive playing career he hit .305 while making seven All-Star teams, leading the league in runs once, doubles once and triples twice.
Known as one of the toughest players of his era, he also managed the Grays to eight first-place finishes, which is the most of any Negro league skipper, while winning a Negro World Series.
As manager, he finished with a career record of 547-278, good for a fantastic winning percentage of .663, including his incredible 1937 campaign when he led the Grays to a record of 60-19 with a ridiculous .759 winning percentage.
Only Hall of Famer "Bullett" Joe Rogan has a higher career winning percentage in Negro League ball as manager, finishing with a .698 figure, but in only 257 games to Harris' 547.
Sadly, Harris, though considered for Hall of Fame induction twice so far, he has not garnered the necessary amount of votes for enshrinement.
Hopefully this will change soon enough.

Friday, September 23, 2022


On the blog today, we give former slugger Jack Clack a 1977 "dedicated rookie", replacing his original multi-player card appearance in the Topps set:

Clark appeared in 26 games for the San Francisco Giants in 1976, his second taste of the Big Leagues after eight games in 1975.
Over those handful of games, Clark hit .230 combined with 27 hits over 119 at-bats, with two homers and twelve runs batted in across 32 games.
Of course, he would develop into an All-Star outfielder and then first baseman over the next 16 seasons, playing through the 1992 campaign for the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and finally the Boston Red Sox.
Over 1994 games he hit .267 with 1826 hits in 6847 at-bats, with 340 homers, 1180 RBIs and 1118 runs scored.
He had two top-5 finished for MVP, fifth place in 1978 and third place in 1987, making four All-Star teams and taking home two Silver Slugger Awards.

Thursday, September 22, 2022


Thought it would be fun today to revisit a blog post from just about eight years ago, my 1973 "nicknames of the 1970's" card for Hall of Fame pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter:

One of the earlier nickname cards I created, and a favorite!
Hunter was coming off of his second of what would be five consecutive 20-win seasons, his last one as a member of the New York Yankees after signing with them as one of the game's first big-time free agents.
What a class-act Hunter was.
A down-to-earth dude who didn't let stardom sidetrack him, it was sad that he'd have to retire from the game at the age of 33 because of arm troubles, but downright tragic that he would pass away in 1999 from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) at the young age of 53!
By the time he retired in 1979, he posted 224 wins, a 3.26 earned run average, 2012 strikeouts, and most importantly, FIVE championships: three with Oakland and two with the Yankees.
In 1987 Cooperstown came calling and elected him in, forever enshrined in baseball's all-time history.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022


Thought it'd be fun to create a "nickname" card for former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Walt "Smokey" Alston, so here goes:

Alston, whose playing career totaled one single at-bat in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1936, parlayed his knowledge into a Hall of Fame managerial career that began in 1954 with the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers.
Over the next 23 years he brought home seven pennants, four world championships, and 2040 wins, with 10 90+ win campaigns.
Think about this: the man averaged 89 wins a season over almost a quarter of a century! Incredible!
Of course, Alston managed legends from Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella to Duke Snider  and Gil Hodges to Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax right through to Steve Garvey and Ron Cey. What a tenure.
1976 would be his last season as manager, handing off to another lifer, Tommy Lasorda for the 1977 season.
In his last season of 1976, Alston won 90 games and had the Dodgers in second place, his 15th season of either a first or second place finish.
In 1983, his stellar career was topped off when he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


On the blog today, we spotlight my Don Sutton entry to my two-series custom 1970 "In-Game Action" set released a few months back:

Sutton was in the middle of a wonderful 23-year run in the Major Leagues, reeling off win after win for the Los Angeles Dodgers since he came up as a 21-year-old in 1966.
The man was a machine, and while some people think incredible steadiness like this doesn’t warrant a Hall of Fame selection, I do! There is something to celebrate when a player performs year after year over a long period of time (think Eddie Murray) without having a “mega-season” along the way.
By the time Sutton left the game after the 1988 season, he finished with 324 wins, a 3.26 earned run average, 58 shutouts and 3574 strikeouts in 774 appearances, 756 of them starts.
Needless to say, in 1998, on his fifth try, he made it into Cooperstown, joining former teammates Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, with 81.6% of the vote.

Monday, September 19, 2022

1977 ALL-STAR GAME: 1978

Hello everyone.

On the blog today, we move on to the 1977 All-Star game, held at Yankee Stadium in New York, celebrated on a 1978 card:

Though the outcome was the "usual", with the National League collecting it's sixth straight Midsummer Classic win, 7-5, it was a thrilling affair, with the A.L. falling just short with their ninth-inning rally.
The N.L. burst out of the gates with four runs in the first innings, helped by home runs by Joe Morgan and Greg Luzinski off of starter Jim Palmer, who ended up giving up five runs over two innings.
Going into the sixth inning the N.L. held a 5-0 lead before the A.L. scored three unanswered runs over the next two innings off of Tom Seaver.
But in the eighth the N.L. came back with two more runs, setting the stage for a ninth inning that saw the A.L. collect two more runs off of Rich Gossage, thanks to a George Scott home run.
But sadly for the Junior Circuit that's all they'd manage, with Gossage shutting them down the rest of the way for that 7-5 win.
N.L. starter Don Sutton was named MVP thanks to his three innings of scoreless ball, walking only one and allowing one hit while striking out four.
Little did the A.L. know they would STILL have to wait another six years before winning an All-Star game, crushing a young ME every year, being an A.L. fan.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


Today on the blog, we move on to the pitching leaders of the 1976 season, expanded to show the top three in each category on a 1977 card, beginning with the National League and top three in victories:
We begin with San Diego Padres ace Randy Jones, who took home the N.L. Cy Young Award that year, helped by his league-leading 22 victories, while also pitching to a 2.74 ERA over 40 starts, completing 25 of them, with five shutouts and an ironman 315.1 innings of work.
It was a wonderful follow-up season to his 1975 campaign that saw him lead the league in ERA with a 2.24 figure, winning 20 games and tossing six shutouts, leading him to a second-place finish in the Cy Young race.
Sadly arm-troubles derailed his career soon after, never winning more than 13 games in any of his six remaining seasons in the Big Leagues, retiring at only 32 years of age.
In second place with 21 wins, a tie with the New York Mets Jerry Koosman and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Don Sutton.
For Koosman, it was a career-year for a man who put in a wonderful 19-year career, going 21-10 with a 2.69 ERA over 34 appearances, with three shutouts and 200 strikeouts, those numbers giving him a second place finish in the Cy Young Race.
For Sutton, it was the only time over his Hall of Fame 23-year career that he’d win 20+ games in a season, appearing in 35 games while posting an ERA of 3.06, with four shutouts and 161 strikeouts over 267.2 innings, all good for a third-place finish for the Cy Young hardware.
By the time he was done in 1988, the man would finish with 324 wins, a 3.26 ERA, 58 shutouts and 3574 strikeouts over 774 games, completing 178.
I couldn’t even believe there were those who felt he wasn’t necessarily a Hall of Famer when his eligibility came up, citing him as a “compiler” because of the length of his career.
Makes no sense to me!
Luckily the BBWA came to their senses and voted him after, but only AFTER five years of eligibility!

Saturday, September 17, 2022


On the blog today, we celebrate the 1976 baseball All-Star game with a “missing” 1977 card, featuring the two starters, San Diego Padre Randy Jones and Detroit Tigers Mark Fidrych:
It was “business as usual” for the National League, as they took their fifth straight All-Star win, beating the American League 7-1, powered by home runs by George Foster and Cesar Cedeno, at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia.
It was an extra festive occasion because of all the Bicentennial celebrations in the “City of Brotherly Love”, with added excitement because of the Major League star of the moment, Mark Fidrych.
The A.L. could only muster five hits off of N.L. pitchers, two by Rusty Staub, singles by Ron LeFlore and Mickey Rivers, and a solo-homer by young Boston Red Sox stud Fred Lynn.
The N.L. jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, tacking on two more runs in the third and three more in the eighth, keeping the game well out of reach from the start.
I’ll always remember this game, as it was the first All-Star game I saw as I was quickly becoming a baseball “junkie” at the age of seven, mesmerized by Fidrych, while rooting for my “hometown” heroes of Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Rivers and Chris Chambliss.

Friday, September 16, 2022


By special request, today's blog post has a 1981 corrected card for former Houston Astros great J.R. Richard, who was ripped off an All-Star banner given that he was the N.L.'s starting pitcher for the 1980 Midsummer Classic:

I will never forget the disappointment as a twelve-year-old kid when I came to realize that Topps broke for their tradition of giving an All-Star designation to the starters of the previous season's game.
With Richard, it was ridiculous since the man pitched the first two innings of the game, allowing only one hit and two walks without a run, striking out three.
Adding insult to tragic injury, Richard suffered a career-ending and almost life-ending stroke shortly after the All-Star game, so you'd think they'd bestow this one honor in light of the tragedy.
At the time, Richard was on his way to another monster season, with a 10-4 record and 1.90 ERA over 17 starts, with 119 strikeouts after leading the N.L. in both 1978 and 1979 with 300+ each year.
But on July 30th, 1980, while playing a game of catch before a game, Richard suffered a stroke that ended his career in an instant, requiring emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot in his neck.
Just terrible.
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…

Thursday, September 15, 2022


Good day all!

Thought it'd be fun to add another player to my long-running 1971 "Minor League Days" thread, with the next guy in 1969 A.L. Rookie of the Year Lou Piniella:

Piniella is shown here as a member of the Portland Beavers, for whom he played between 1966 and 1968, averaging above .300 combined while in the Cleveland Indians organization.
He did get into six games for the Indians in 1968 before being selected by the new Seattle Pilots organization in the expansion draft in October of that year.
However right before the 1969 season Piniella was traded by the Pilots to another new franchise, the Kansas City Royals, for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker.
It was a great move by the Kansas City team, as Piniella would not disappoint, going on to cop Rookie of the Year honors by hitting .282 with eleven homers and 68 runs batted in.
He'd play with the Royals through the 1973 season, making one more All-Star team in 1972 when he hit .312 while leading the league with 33 doubles, collecting a career-best 179 hits.
After being traded to the New York Yankees before the 1974 season, Piniella found his permanent home in the big leagues, playing the final eleven seasons of his career there.
Along the way he was a member of two championship teams, hit .300 or better five times, and eventually would even become manager of the Yanks before moving on to a long career leading Major League squads.
Over his 18-year career he hit .291, with 1705 hits in 5867 at-bats, and besides 10 games split between the Orioles in 1964 and the Indians in 1968, he'd do it all with the Roylas and Yankees between 1969-1984.
In 1986 he took over as Yankee manager, and would go on to manage for another 23 seasons, guiding the Yanks, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays and Cubs.
He would lead his teams to a World Series win in 1990 (Reds), an American League record 116 win season in 2001 (Mariners), eight 90+ win seasons (all but the Devil Rays), and six 1st place finishes (with the Reds, Mariners and Cubs).
Not a bad career spanning 46 years!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


For fun today, thought I'd whip up a 1973 "traded" variation card for former batting champ Alex Johnson, who found himself off to the Texas Rangers after one season with the Cleveland Indians:

Johnson, who won the 1970 batting title while with the California Angels, had a disappointing season in Cleveland in 1972, appearing in 108 games for the Tribe, hitting .239.
On March 8th of 1973, the Indians sent him packing to the Texas Rangers for pitchers Vince Colbert and Rich Hinton.
Just three seasons earlier he hit a league-leading .329, barely out-hitting the Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski, with 202 hits, 86 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases while making the All-Star team.
However, issues regarding his play created problems with California management, leading to conflict between he and manager Lefty Phillips.
As the 1971 season opened these issues continued, limiting his play because of "indifference", eventually leading to a season ending suspension by the Angels' front-office without pay because of a few different incidences.
Sadly, though he had a couple of decent seasons over the next few years of his career, he never again reached the level of play between 1968-1970, done as an active player after the 1976 season at only 33 years of age.
By the time he retired, he finished with a very nice .288 batting average, with 1331 hits over 4623 at-bats in 1322 games, but sadly never again able to reach that level of play that made him one of the more promising young talents in 1970.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022


On the blog today, we spotlight the great Phil Niekro's card in my custom 1970 "In-Game Action" two-series set released a few months back:

Niekro was coming off a fantastic 1969 season by the time this "card" would have seen the light of day, posting a record of 23-13 over 40 appearances, with a 2.56 ERA, four shutouts and 193 strikeouts at the age of 30, making his first All-Star game and finishing second in the Cy Young race.
It is incredible to think Niekro didn’t have a full season on Big League duty until 1967 at the age of 28, yet still went on to pitch 24 seasons, winning 318 games with a very nice 3.35 ERA along with 45 shutouts and 3342 strikeouts before he was done at the age of 48!
I always thought it amazing that at the age of 44 in 1983, he took home the last of his five Gold Gloves, ALL of which were garnered beginning his age 39 season in 1978.

Monday, September 12, 2022


Up on the blog today, thought it'd be fun to go a finally "fix" the 1976 Oakland A's team card, adding the manager inset photograph that Topps left off because of a managerial change during the off-season:

As the cards went to press, Oakland got rid of manager Al Dark and didn't have a replacement yet, so Topps decided to just leave out the manager photo on the lower right, which has always irked me.
Why not just include an image of Al Dark, who guided them through the 1975 season, a season which saw the team go all the way to the American League Championship Series before losing to the Boston Red Sox?
Oakland went 98-64 for the year, though more significantly they missed out on a championship for the first time in four years. Incredible.
The three-peat champions between 1972 and 1974, the dynasty led by guys like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue were poised to win another as they cruised into the A.L. Championship Series, but were ousted by the Red Sox, in what was to become a quick decline for the A's organization mainly due to Free Agency.
Nevertheless, Al Dark led the team for two years, won a championship in 1974 as he guided the team to a record of 90-72, then the aforementioned 98-win season in 1975.
In 1976 the team hired Chuck Tanner to manage, and he fared well, leading them to a record of 87-74, but not good enough for a first-place finish, as the up-and-coming Kansas City Royals franchise began a spectacular run that saw them take over the role as "powerhouse" of the A.L. West that would last for about a decade or so.

Sunday, September 11, 2022


On the blog today, we move on to the American League and their top three ERA pitchers of the 1976 season, with a 1977 “expanded league leader” card:
Of course we begin with the story of that magical season, rookie pitcher Mark Fidrych, who led the league with his 2.34 ERA on his way to Rookie of the Year honors while finishing runner-up to Jim Palmer for the Cy Young Award.
His season truly was something else, as the 21 year-old completed 24 of his 29 starts, tossing four shutouts and throwing 250.1 innings in his debut season, seemingly out of nowhere, ending up with a record of 19-9.
Fidrych was my first baseball “big news” memory as a seven-year-old, as it seemed even in New York City where I grew up, he was on the news every few days for one accomplishment after another.
“The Bird” was a phenomenon, and his quirky personality and on-field antics were, and still are, the stuff of legend.
Just behind him in second place with a 2.35 ERA, none other than Oakland A’s ace Vida Blue, who had another strong season with a record of 18-13 over 37 starts, with 20 complete games, six shutouts and 166 strikeouts over 298.1 innings of work.
That ERA was his lowest mark since his breakout Cy Young/MVP season of 1971, when he led the league with his 1.82 figure, winning 24 games while tossing eight shutouts.
In third place with a 2.43 ERA, young California Angels pitcher Frank Tanana, who had his best Big League season yet, going 19-10 over 34 starts, with 261 strikeouts, 23 complete games and two shutouts while throwing 288.1 innings at the age of 22.
The year prior, Tanana led the A.L. with 269 strikeouts while posting a record of 16-9 over 34 appearances, with 16 complete games and five shutouts, and would bookend his 1976 season with a 1977 campaign that saw him lead the league with a 2.54 ERA over 31 appearances, with a record of 15-9, a league-leading seven shutouts, and 205 K’s over 241.1 innings pitched.
The man was on his way to Hall of Fame glory before injuries forced him to rework his approach, becoming more of a “pitcher” as opposed to a flame-thrower, enabling him to continue pitching through the 1933 season, a solid 21 year career, finishing up with 243 wins, a 3.66 ERA, 2773 strikeouts and 34 shutouts.
Not a bad threesome representing the A.L. right here!

Saturday, September 10, 2022


Today on the blog I thought it’d be fun (yet still painful for many here in the NYC area) to create a 1978 “Turn Back the Clock” card celebrating the debut of West Coast baseball in the Major Leagues, with the sudden departure of both the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers from the New York metropolitan area over the off-season:
As we all know by know, after failed negotiations with the city and state for new and improved “modern” ballparks, the owners of both much-loved New York City National League teams agreed to take the organizations West, the Giants to San Francisco and the Dodgers to Los Angeles, leaving a HUGE hole in the hearts of many.
Both teams did flourish in their new digs, becoming powerhouses with stars like Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Willie McCovey et. Al, lending the aura of the West Coast an even larger presence in American culture through the early-70’s.
On April 15th, 1958, the Dodgers squared off against the Giants, with San Francisco winning the game 8-0 on a Ruben Gomez shutout, in the very first game played on the West Coast in Major League history, played at Seal’s Stadium in San Francisco.
I can’t even imagine what this must have been like for Dodger and Giant fans here on the East Coast, crushed by the reality of their teams now located over 3000 miles away.

Friday, September 9, 2022


On the blog today, we add the great Negro league player George Scales to my long-running 1972 "Negro Leagues All-Time Greats" thread, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in the Major Leagues:

The second baseman put in a 25-year professional career that saw him bat .320, while also going on to manage 12 seasons in the Puerto Rican Winter League, winning six pennants.
An incredibly versatile player, he put in time at every single position except for catcher, playing the most of his career at third base with 235 games and second base with 161 games.
In 1927, while with the New York Lincoln Giants, he hit .419, a career-best though he did top a .380 batting average three other times over the course of his career.
His .510 career slugging average ranks ninth among all Negro League players with 3000 or more plate appearances, with all eight of the players ahead of him already in the Hall of Fame, for which Scales has not been yet honored.

Thursday, September 8, 2022


Up on the blog today, we give Bobby Valentine a “dedicated” 1971 rookie card, as I just now realize the image I used was ALSO used on his 1972 Topps card:
Things being what they are, too late to swap it out now since I can’t find another usable image, so here you go for the time being.
The highly touted Valentine was drafted as the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 1969 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and made his MLB debut as a pinch runner at the age of 19 during that very season, scoring five runs without an official at-bat.
After spending all of 1970 in the Minors, he was back in the Big Leagues in 1971, hitting .249 over 101 games and 281 at-bats, collecting 70 hits with 32 runs scored and 25 runs batted in.
In 1972 he made the team, and went on to hit .274 while playing multiple positions, cementing himself as a versatile player off the bench, appearing in 119 games.
However, in November of that year he was part of a package that brought the Dodgers starting pitcher Andy Messersmith, a blockbuster of a deal that also saw L.A. send Bill Singer and Frank Robinson to Anaheim for the young ace.
Sadly, as Valentine started the 1973 season strong for the Angels, hitting .302 by May 17th, he suffered a brutal multiple compound fracture in a game against the Oakland A’s after his spikes got caught in the outfield’s chail link fence while trying to rob Dick Green of a home run.
That injury never healed properly and Valentine was lost the rest of the season, while also never regaining his speed.
He would spend the next seven years as a part-time player, moving on to the San Diego Padres in 1975, New York Mets in 1977 and finally the Seattle Mariners for one last season in 1979.
Over his 10-year career he finished with a .260 average, with 441 hits in 1698 at-bats over 639 games, scoring 176 runs and driving in 157.
Of course, after his playing career he became a Major League manager, putting in 16 seasons leading the Texas Rangers (1985-1992), New York Mets (1996-2002) and the Boston Red Sox (2012), winning a pennant in 2000 while with the Mets, losing to the New York Yankees in the “Subway Series”.
His final MLB managerial record: 581-605.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022


On the blog today, we revisit as post from over six years ago, my 1973 coach card for one of the greatest to ever take a Major League mound, Warren Spahn, who was lending his expertise to the Indians by the early-70's:

Here's my original write-up way back when:

"Allow me to indulge myself and present to you all a fantasy card I wish existed: a 1973 Warren Spahn “coach” card, even though they didn’t exist in that set.
I came across this GREAT photo of Spahn when he was coaching for the Tribe and immediately knew I had to whip up a dedicated card for him, since he IS on the Indians Ken Aspromonte manager card.
I’ve always been a huge Spahn fan, so any chance to create cards for him is something I’ll jump at!
I mean, all the guy did was win 363 games, pitch 63 shutouts and post 13 20-win seasons, among other things!
And remember he didn’t win his first game until he was 25 years of age, as he served in the military from 1943 to 1945.
Just an incredible talent!
Look for some other “fantasy cards” of mine in the near future, like Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax...

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


On the blog today, thought it'd be fun to take a closer look at another unissued 1977 proof card, this of future Cy Young winning pitcher Steve Stone, who found himself "across town" before the season, going from the Chicago Cubs to the White Sox:

By the time the 1977's were out, Topps went ahead and airbrushed Stone into a Sox uni, but as you can see from the unissied proof, they originally had him in a Cubs uniform in a posed photo.
Stone spent the previous three seasons on the North Side of Chicago playing for the Cubs, winning 8, 12 and 3 games respectively between 1974 and 1976.
Funny enough, before his Cubs tenure he played one season with the White Sox in 1973, going 6-11 over 36 appearances with a 4.24 earned run average.
He'd have his best season yet in 1977 with the White Sox, winning 15 games against 12 losses, posting an ERA of 4.51 over 31 starts, with eight complete games.
He'd go on to win 12 more games in 1978 before finding himself in Baltimore for the 1979 season, where he'd go 11-7 with a 3.77 ERA over 32 starts.
Of course, the 1980 season was one for the ages, as he would come out of nowhere to win 25 games, make his only All-Star team, and eventually take home the A.L. Cy Young Award.
Along with the hefty win total he posted an ERA of 3.23 over 37 starts, with a shutout and 149 strikeouts in 250.2 innings of work.
However, sadly for him he would develop arm troubles during the 1981 season, and incredibly would see his Major league career end just like that, finishing 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA over 15 games, 12 of them starts, throwing only 62.2 innings.
All told, Stone finished with a record of 107-93 in 11 seasons, with a 3.97 ERA and seven shutouts over 320 games, 269 of them starts, and 1788.1 innings pitched.

Monday, September 5, 2022


The next card from my two-sertes custom set released over the past few months is Hall of Fame third baseman Ron Santo of the Chicago Cubs:

Santo made his sixth All-Star team in 1969, having one of his best seasons in the Big Leagues when he drove in a career-best 123 runs along with 29 homers, 97 runs scored and a .289 batting average.
For his efforts he also finished fifth at the end of the year for N.L. MVP, his second best finish after a fourth place finish just two seasons prior.
Between 1963 and 1973 Santo was selected for nine All-Star games, received five Gold Gloves for his defensive work, and four-time finished Top-10 in the National League MVP race, with a high of fourth in 1967.
Post-playing career, Santo moved on to broadcasting, where he was a beloved color commentator over the years, working with guys like Harry Caray, Thom Brennaman and Steve Stone.
But it was mainly his working relationship with Pat Hughes on the radio that were enthusiastically known as the “Pat and Ron Show”.
Sadly, Santo would die from bladder cancer and complications from diabetes in December, 2010, and would not live to see himself selected for the Hall of Fame, as that would come almost a year later when he was the only player selected by the Golden Era Committee.
Just a crying shame if you ask me.

Sunday, September 4, 2022


On the blog today, we move on to a 1977 “expanded league leader” card for the N.L.’s top three E.R.A. pitchers of the 1976 season, in my long-running thread “fixing” the limited Leaders cards of the 1970’s:
We begin with young St. Louis Cardinals pitcher John Denny, who put in a very nice sophomore season in the Big Leagues, leading the league with his 2.52 ERA in 1976.
For Denny, he posted a record of 11-9 that year, after a rookie season the year prior that saw him go 10-7, however with a 3.97 ERA over 25 appearances.
For the 1976 season he appeared in 30 games, all starts, throwing 207 innings and tossing three shutouts among his eight complete games.
A steady starter over his 13-year career, his best season would be 1983 when he helped lead the “Wheez Kids” Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series, winning the Cy Young Award with his league-leading 19 wins against six losses, along with a very nice 2.37 ERA and career-high 242.2 innings pitched.
Behind Denny in the ERA race in 1976, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Doug Rau with his 2.57 mark, who had himself a very nice five year run between 1974 and 1978, giving L.A. a dependable arm every fourth or fifth day.
For Rau, he won a career-best 16 games against 12 losses over 34 appearances, 32 of those starts, with eight complete games and three shutouts.
Between the years mentioned above, Rau averaged about 15 wins a season for the Dodgers, reaching just about 200 innings pitched each year.
Sadly his career came to a sudden end because of arm trouble, managing only 11 appearances in 1979, and three in 1981 with the California Angels, giving him a final record of 81-60 over 222 games between 1972 and 1981.
In third place with a 2.59 ERA, Hall of Famer and MY pick as the best pitcher of the 1970’s, Tom Seaver of the New York Mets, who had a “down” season that saw him go 14-11 over 35 games with a league-leading 235 strikeouts, with five shutouts thrown in.
The man was just incredible. What a talent.
It was Seaver’s ninth straight season of 200+ strikeouts, setting a record on his way to 3640 career K’s, to go with his 311 wins, 2.86 ERA, 61 shutouts and three Cy Young Awards over 20 years in the Big Leagues.
Next week? We move on to the American League in the same category.
See you then!


Everything baseball: cards, events, history and more.