Monday, January 30, 2012

Feeling Thirsty?

That Pepsi logo in the background appears to be a little bit of subliminal advertising. It's just out of focus, but we all know what it is:

Card #107 -- Phil Hennigan, New York Mets

The picture is an airbrush job, as Phil Hennigan was traded to the Mets after the '72 season. Prior to that, he had spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians. The trade didn't help him, though; he was sent down to the minors in July '73 and never made it back to the majors again.

Hennigan was a relief pitcher, both as a set-up man and as a closer. His career record over 126 games was 17-14 with 26 saves. That was a winning record, which wasn't bad if you consider how bad the Indians were at the time, Gaylord Perry notwithstanding. However, his record with the Mets was 0-4, which really didn't help his cause if he wanted to stay in the majors.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Top Shortstop of His Era?

This player was arguably the best shortstop of the 1970s:

Card #554 -- Dave Concepcion, Cincinnati Reds

As a key part of the Big Red Machine that went to four World Series and won two back-to-back, Davey Concepcion has definitely earned the right to be in the conversation. He spent his entire 19-year career with the Reds, outlasting all of the other position players who accompanied him to those World Series. In fact, one of the veterans on the team during his rookie season was in his fifth year as his manager when he retired.

In fact, his long run as the team's regular shortstop ended as Barry Larkin began his own tenure at the position. As a result, the Reds had a 35-year period where two different players held down a single position. I am too lazy to look it up, but there can't be too many situations in baseball history that match that, especially since the advent of Free Agency. Unlike Larkin, however, Concepcion wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame despite being "on the bubble" statistics-wise. Perhaps having several teammates (Bench, Morgan, Perez, Seaver later on) and a manager (Sparky Anderson) getting plaques -- which doesn't mention Pete Rose -- it may be hard to argue that he belongs.

During his career, Concepcion was a decent threat with the bat; he didn't hit for power but was respected for his ability to stretch out a double. With the glove, he was nearly unstoppable. He even perfected a method of using the artificial turf at Riverfront Stadium to help speed up deep throws to first.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Double Whammy

The two players pictured on this card also appeared on the Home Run Leaders card.

Card #63 -- 1972 Runs Batted In Leaders

Bench narrowly beat out the Cubs' Billy Williams (who drove in 122 runs) for the title. Dick Allen, on the other hand, finished well ahead of John Mayberry, who knocked in 100 runs. If both leagues had been combined, Allen would have been the only American League player among the Top 5.

At the moment when the American League was about to introduce the Designated Hitter position to help spur more offense, it appeared they needed it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Tough "Bird"

Here's a player who spent 11 seasons in baseball, managed for another 11 seasons and was gone way too soon:

Card #9 -- Johnny Oates, Baltimore Orioles

Johnny Oates actually spent 1973 with the Atlanta Braves after being traded after the '72 season was over. However, since he was included in the first series of cards Topps issued, there apparently wasn't any time for them to summon the airbrush artist to give him a new uniform.

With the O's, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers and the Yankees, Oates was primarily a backup catche between 1970 and '81. While regraded an exceptional defensive backstop, he was a lifetime .250 hitter. He was able to make the postseason every season from 1976-'78, playing in two World Series with the Dodgers.

He was also one of the many thinking catchers who went on to become managers. The second career started almost immediately after his retirement; he guided the Yankees' AA Nashville affiliate to the Southern League championship in his first year as their skipper in 1982. The next year, he guided AAA Columbus to a first-place divisional finish. After a stint as coache for the Cubs, he moved to the Baltimore organization and won another league championship before moving to the parent club's staff.

His chance to become a major league skipper came in 1991 when he took over for Frank Robinson to lead the Orioles, the team that gave him his first big league break. In 1995, he took the reigns of the Rangers and won three divisional titles in the six full years he led them. Unfortunately, those teams were promptly trounced by the late-90s Yankee dynasty.

Fired early in the 2001 season, Oates was considering a return to managing but was dealt a cruel hand by fate. His diagnosis: a brain tumor, an agressive type that his doctors said would give him just one year. The old catcher wasn't willing to surrender the plate, though, and fought it for more than three years. He passed away in 2004.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another Big Mound of Dirt

This guy is posing in front of the same big mound of dirt that was on Jim Lonborg's card:

Card #212 -- Joe Lahoud, Milwaukee Brewers

In this case, Joe Lahoud isn't airbrushed into a different team's uniform. I am guessing that this photo was taken in Tempe, Arizona, which served as the Brewers' spring training home in 1972.

Lahoud was a player who was of Lebanese ancestry and played for five different teams during an 11-year career. He came up to the Red Sox in 1968 to replace Tony Conigliaro during one of his periods of injury. He was traded to the Brewers in 1971 with Conigliaro's brother Billy. He would move on to the Angels after the '73 season and played with the Rangers and Royals before playing his last major league game in 1978.

Lahoud retired with a .223 lifetime batting average, which explains why he moved around a lot, but is amazing because you'd rarely see an 11-year veteran today with those numbers unless he was a huge power threat. In Lahoud's case, he had some decent power during his prime years (taking into account the era in which he played) and had a good ability to get on base. However, the numbers weren't enough to keep him anywhere for too long.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"One, Two, Three Strikes, You're Out"

Collectors who covet rookie cards should pay attention to this one:

Card #616 -- 1973 Rookie Pitchers

In this case, the term "rookie" applied to the players but not necessarily the card. This was Mike Garman's third multi-player "Rookies" card. For the other two, it would be the only time Topps ever featured them on a slab of cardboard.

Norm Angelini was a teammate of Ron Cey's at Washington State. He was drafted three times and failed to come to an agreement with any of those teams, which led to him signing as an amateur free agent with the Royals in 1969. His major league career was brief, consisting of partial seasons in 1972 and '73, but he hung on for 13 seasons in the minors before hanging up the glove in 1981.

As for Steve Blateric, he pitched during three major league seasons. However, those three seasons consisted of five games, eleven innings and a lifetime 0-0 record. His only appearance as a Yankee came late in the 1972 season, a 4-inning mop-up performance in a game that was a 1-0 loss. That's why his picture is airbrushed here...he wasn't there long enough to get a picture. He also appeared in a pair of games with the Reds in 1971 and another pair for the Angels in 1975.

Mike Garman was also largely relegated to mop-up duty during his tenure with the Red Sox. After 1973, he was traded to the Cardinals, where he spent two years. After that, he went to the Cubs for 1976, the Dodgers in 1977 and split the '78 season between Los Angeles and the Expos. He managed to pitch in the 1977 postseason, where he failed to surrender a single run in four appearances.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Double Duty...and a Long Career

This guy had a long career as both a player and a manger:

Card #215 -- Dusty Baker, Atlanta Braves

His managing career has lasted nearly as long as his playing career. He played part of 19 seasons and will begin his 19th season as a manager when the Cincinnati Reds take the field this spring.

Dusty Baker first came up to the majors in 1968 with the Braves and played there through 1975. His first season as a full-timer was 1972, the same year he took this great picture while holding out a bat. He batted .321 that season, which was good enough for third place in the National League and was also in the Top 10 with his OPB and Slugging. Ironically, as a manager, he has famously discounted OPB as a factor in crafting his lineup, preferring to judge a player's speed over his ability to get on base.

After 1975, he spent the rest of his career with teams based in California. He was most famously a Dodger from 1976 through 1983. During 1977, he was one of four Dodgers (with Ron Cey, Reggie Smith and Steve Garvey) who hit 30 or more home runs, the first team to ever claim that distinction. During those eight seasons, he went to the postseason four times and won a Series ring in 1981.

In 1984, Baker spent a single season with the Giants, followed by two more in Oakland. He returned to San Francisco as a third-base coach in 1988 and stayed on the coaching staff until taking the manager's position in 1993. That first season, he won the N.L. Manager of the Year award by leading his squad to a 103-59 record (but the Atlanta Braves were still in the N.L. West then and won one more game). He remained the Giant skipper for ten seasons, winning two division titles and one pennant in 2002. That series went seven games and featured a moment where his son Darren was pulled away from the plate before being run over by J.T. Snow, but was ultimately won by the Anaheim Angels.

Even though he took the Giants to the Series, Baker moved on to manage the Chicago Cubs in 2003. That year saw yet another postseason, but the Fates that have tortured the Wrigley faithful stepped in to somehow snatch away what was a seemingly sure victory. He remained with the Cubs through 2006 and took the reigns in Cincinnati in 2008.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"The Punisher"

The title of this post isn't really this player's nickname as a player (he was called "Bull"). Instead, it is a description of the job he held after his retirement:

Card #110 - Bob Watson, Houston Astros

From 1998 through 2010, Bob Watson served as Major League Baseball's vice president in charge of discipline and vice president of rules and on-field operations. In that position, he was the man who doled out the punishments and fines for players and managers who step out of line.

As a player, Watson was not much of a power threat, but he was a decent contact hitter.Though best-remembered for scoring what was then billed as the one millionth run in baseball history in 1975, he also managed to hit for the cycle in each league. After acheiving the feat in 1977 while playing for Houston, he repeated it as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1979.

Unfortunately, there were two negatives that affected Watson's career numbers. First, he came up during an era where pitchers dominated and the batting averages were generally lower. Second, he played the bulk of his career (1966-'79) in Houston, where the Astrodome was a ballpark that killed offensive numbers.

During the 1979 season, he was traded to the Red Sox, where he was able to DH as well as play first base, the position he began playing regularly with Houston by 1974. After becoming a free agent that offseason, Watson went to the New York Yankees, where he continued to split his time between first and the DH position. He finally reached the postseason when he played in two ALCS series and in the '81 World Series. Early in the 1982 season, Watson was traded to the Braves and was primarily a pinch-hitter and backup to Chris Chambliss (the man he replaced in New York). He retired after the 1984 season.

Watson became a hitting coach after his playing days were over. He was part of the staff at Oakland when they went to the 1988 World Series. The next season, he stepped into the front office as the Astros' assistant GM. In 1994, he begame the team's GM and then filled the same position with the Yankees in 1996. That year, he finally was part of a World Series champion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Replacement For Two Hall of Fame Skippers

This player played for 18 seasons and every one of his games featured him wearing Dodger blue. He later took over as the team's manager, replacing Tommy Lasorda (who in turn replaced Walter Alston):

Card #108 -- Bill Russell, Los Angeles Dodgers

Among all the Dodgers who have ever played -- going back to their days in Brooklyn -- only Zack Wheat (another Hall of Famer) has ever played more games. Although Bill Russell is well-known for being one-quarter of the longest-tenured infield combination in baseball history (along with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Ron Cey), he was an outfielder when he came up to the club in 1969 because they still had Maury Wills taking grounders at shortstop. Interestingly, Russell was the only member of that foursome to end his career in Los Angeles.

During his 18-year career, he was a National League All-Star three times and played in four World Series, winning a ring during the 1981 Fall Classic. His coaching career started as soon as he retired, joining Lasorda's staff in 1987. He would get a second Series ring in 1988 as a coach. Largely considered as Lasorda's "heir apparent," he was given a position as the skipper of the Dodgers' AAA affiliate in Albuquerque from 1992-'93 before returning to the parent clubs staff in 1994. When Lasorda suffered a heart attack in 1996, Russell was named the interim manager before the front office decided to let him stay. He piloted the team to a pair of second-place finishes but a slow start in 1998 led to his dismissal.

Russell has continued as a manager in the minor leagues, and is now working in MLB's umpiring division.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Boog"'s Stepbrother

This guy was the stepbrother of Orioles star John "Boog" Powell:

Card #99 -- Carl Taylor, Kansas City Royals

Interestingly, Carl Taylor is shown as an outfielder on this card despite splitting his career between two outfield positions along with first and third base. He went behind that plate during his rookie season in 1968 but played elsewhere in the field until the '72 season. In 1973, the Royals gave him the chance to don the "tools of ignorance" once more, and he took the catchers' mitt more times during that season than he ever had in his career. Unfortunately, the effort failed to work out. 1973 was also his final season as a player.

Taylor played in six major league seasons between three teams. He came up with Pittsburgh in 1968, went to the Cardinals before 1970 in the Dave Guisti trade and went to the Royals for Ellie Rodriguez in '71. The Pirates purchased his contract later that year, but the Royals purchased it back in '72. In 1969, he had his best season with the bat, hitting .348. That matched the number Pete Rose led the league with, but was far short of the number of plate appearances needed to qualify for the title. That was one of only two seasons that saw him hit above .250, which accounted for his rapid uniform changes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Trippin' Out

Kids these days...needing to take growth hormone drugs to play baseball. In this guy's day, he claimed he took LSD and pitched a no-hitter:

Card #575 -- Dock Ellis, Pittsburgh Pirates

Dock Ellis tossed the no-no on June 12, 1970 against the Padres despite hitting one batter and walking eight. You can watch a video with his very humorous account of that game here.

Although Ellis is probably going to be best remembered as the guy who tripped his way through a no-hitter, that overshadows a career that had its share of other highlights. When the Pirates won the World Series in 1971, he was their winningest pitcher. He also started the All-Star game that year for the National League. In 1976, he helped get the Yankees to the World Series for the first time in 12 years and won the Comeback Player of the year award.

There were a series of lowlights as well: there was an altercation with a security guard at Riverfront Stadium that ended up getting him maced. He ended up deliberately tossing at the heads of every Reds player he faced in a game in 1974. Fortunately for all involved, he was pulled from the game five batters in and before anybody got seriously hurt. He beaned Reggie Jackson in 1976 simply because he hit a monster home run off of him five years before. He had a series of incident based on perceived racism against him, as well as a near mutiny against Rangers manager Billy Hunter late in his career.

After retiring in 1979, Ellis worked as a drug counselor, which was his way of helping others after he'd been a chronic abuser himself. He worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to help rehabilitate prisoners and started a charity to raise money for research on sickle-cell anemia. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2007 and died the next year when that organ failed. He was still on the list for a liver transplant when he passed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Changing of the Guard...

This picture represents the end of a very dark era for Yankee fans...or the beginning of another for non-Yankee fans:

Card #556 -- New York Yankees Team Card

After more than 40 years of near-constant success, the Yankees failed to win any pennants after 1964. During those years of near-constant success, they were led by owners who were willing to do what they needed to get the best possible team on the field. Jacob Ruppert owned the club from 1915 until his passing in 1939 and was known for being an aggressive wheeler and dealer. In 1945, Dan Topping and Del Webb bought the team from Ruppert's estate and ushered in yet another era that saw the team win a pennant nearly every year. During the 20 seasons they owned the team, they won 15 pennants and 10 World Series.

In 1964, they sold the team to CBS. The large company treated the team as just another entity in its conglomeration, and the team suffered. As their 1950s stars aged and retired, CBS didn't pursue new talent the same way that the previous ownership did; when the draft began, they weren't assured of getting the best players anymore. By 1966, the Yankees finished dead last in the league for the first time since 1912.

In 1973, a shipping magnate from Tampa purchased the team and went about building another Yankee dynasty. His name was George Steinbrenner, and he would definitely have his hand in the day-to-day operations of the club.

Pictured here is the last Yankees team of the CBS era. Many of these players would soon be traded away or retired. The manager, Ralph Houk -- who went back to the Topping/Webb years -- would soon leave the position. It would be the beginning of a rapidly revolving managerial door that spun around until 1995. Thurman Munson and Roy White were among the few players who remained and helped the team win three straight pennants and the 1977 and '78 World Series.

I do wish to point out the gentleman in the second row, second to the right. That is Pete Sheehy, who served as the team's clubhouse manager from 1927 until his death in 1985. His time with the club spanned from Ruth and Gehrig through Mattingly and Winfield. An awful lot of baseball history went on during his watch. Supposedly, when Lou Gehrig realized it was time to sit out, he tossed his glove to Sheehy before telling his manager. Sheehy also suggested that Mickey Mantle take uniform #7 after his first stint in New York as #6 didn't turn out well. It's neat that he's able to show up in this set.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Both of the players in this picture would later play for the New York Yankees:

Card #11 -- Chris Chambliss, Cleveland Indians

That's Jim Kaat being held at first base, back when American League pitchers were still allowed to take their turn at bat. The second-ever post on this blog shows Kaat taking a turn at the plate, and I wonder if that picture was taken at the same game (and before he put on his warm-up jacket). But I digress...this post isn't about Jim Kaat.

Chris Chambliss came up the the Tribe in 1971 and was named Rookie of the Year for his efforts. In 1974 he became one of the several former Indians (Graig Nettles, Oscar Gamble, Dick Tidrow, Fred Stanley) who went to the Yankees after the team's former executive Gabe Paul was made GM there. Paul was trying to build a team that would bring the Yankees back to glory, and Chambliss did a big part to help win their first pennant in 12 years by crushing a home run to win the 1976 ALCS.

After being a big part of the team's dynasty that won three straight pennants and the 1977 and '78 World Series, he was traded to Toronto after the '79 season but never played for them as he was sent to the Braves a few days later. He remained in Atlanta through 1986 and was the everyday first baseman through 1984. In 1988, he served as a hitting coach for the Yankees and was re-activated for one game, where he struck out in his only at-bat. 

He continued with coaching and managing in the minors. Among the stops was another stint with the Yankees from 1996-2000, where he served as the hitting coach under Joe Torre, who managed him in Atlanta. He won four more Series rings in that time. In 2010, he was hired as a coach for the Seattle Mariners.

I don't usually show the backs of the cards on this blog, but I was interested in this one for a very personal reason:

I like that cartoon...because it describes me as well. Or at least it did, until a fire that I don't like to talk about. Fortunately, I still have several hundred CDs and a very large collection of digital files of songs that were hits from 1908-present. And they are part of the same passion I have for cards; in addition to these two blogs, I also write two blogs that are music-related: 70s Music Mayhem and 80s Music Mayhem. If you happen to like the music of those two decades, check them out.