Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Night Owl Will Hate This Post

Greg the "Night Owl" is a fellow Blogger and his post are enlightening, but I don't imagine he'll like this checklist card very much:

(No Number) San Francisco Giants Team Checklist

But I have to feature each card on my way through the set, so let me get this one out of the way. Hopefully, he'll see it as akin to ripping off a Band-Aid quickly in order to get it off. That said, there are some Giant fans out there who likely would mind if I neglected to talk about their let's see if the names on the card present a full "field-ready" team...

Actually, I know it won't, because there was no listed Giants third baseman anywhere in the 1973 Topps set. But let's play anyhow.

Two first basemen are featured in Dave Kingman and Willie McCovey. Funny enough, Kingman played more at third base in 1972 (and '73). Fuentes and Speier take the keystone positions, while third and catcher are vacant. There are also only two outfielders listed here, Bobby Bonds and Garry Maddox. So, even if you moved one of the first basemen around to play other positions like they did in "real life," you'd still be short somewhere.

However, this team is heavy on pitching. Juan Marichal was a hard thrower, while Jerry Johnson and Ron Bryant were at their peak right about that time. Jim Barr, Tom Bradley and "Sudden Sam" are also ready to take the ball. And Dave Kingman gets a another mention here, as he spent four innings on the mound in 1973.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today Calls For an Appreciation

Today is Memorial Day, when we pay our respects to our fellow Americans who've fallen in the defense of our country. Since the 1973 Topps set doesn't feature anybody who's been lost in battle, I'll focus on one of the men who lost two seasons of his career to wear a different type of uniform:

Card #122 -- Jim Strickland, Minnesota Twins

In Jim Strickland's case, he missed the 1967 and 1968 seasons due to military service. At the time, a draft was on and everybody was expected to register for it. Baseball players weren't exempted, but somehow many of the best players were able to get into a reserve unit to limit their time away in case the military came calling. That didn't always happen, and in Strickland's case he was called by the regular Army and willingly went to do his part.

At the time he was tagged by Uncle Sam, Strickland was working his way through the Dodgers' farm system. Upon his discharge, he returned to AA Albuquerque, where he spent the 1966 season. In 1970, the Twins picked him up in a totally different draft and he made his big league debut in 1971. After the '73 season, he was traded to Cleveland and appeared in four games for them in 1975.

A relief specialist, Strickland took the mound in 60 games in the majors. His final record was 4-2 and his ERA was a respectable 2.63. He spent at least part of all of his seasons in the minors and stayed in organized baseball through 1976. But he was ready when he was called, whether it was his skipper or his country making the call.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Returning To a Relief Role

This guy ended 1968 with a phenomenal 1.99 ERA:

Card #541 -- Bob Bolin, Boston Red Sox

At the time, Bob Bolin was pitching for the Giants. It would be the lowest ERA of his 13-season career, but Bob Gibson's 1.12 record overshadowed it.

Bolin came up with the Giants in 1961 as a reliever, but would eventually earn a spot in the opening rotation by 1963. In 1964, he tossed a one-hitter against the Braves. By 1965, he was going back and forth between the two roles and continued to fill in where he was needed through the end of the decade.

Before the 1970 season, Bolin was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and continued as both a starter and reliever. However, he was traded over to the Red Sox late in the season and contributed in the bullpen exclusively after that. 1973 Would be his final season. He reported for Spring Training in '74 but was released before the season began.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Second Sacker "Sacked" After Second Season

This player won the Rookie of the Year award for the National League in 1969:

Card #128 -- Ted Sizemore, St. Louis Cardinals

However, Ted Sizemore's 1970 contest wasn't as exciting, so the Dodgers traded him to St.Louis to get Dick Allen. To their credit, the Dodgers had plenty of talent at second base coming up in their organization and really needed a slugger, so Sizemore was considered expendable since is position was so deep. Despite a good batting eye and sure glove, his speed and base-stealing prowess weren't what Davey Lopes eventually provided at the position. In that sense, the team likely did a favor by letting Sizemore go, as he spent the next five years as the Cardinal's regular second baseman.

He batted behind Lou Brock in St. Louis, and Brock gave some of the credit to Sizemore for his base-stealing prowess because Sizemore's at-bats kept opponents busy enough to provide chances to run. Sizemore was traded back to Los Angeles in 1976 after Lopes fell into a slump, and the went to the Phillies for two more years, appearing in the NLCS in both 1977 and '78. Unfortunately, his team lost in both seasons to the Dodgers. He spilt 1979 between the Cubs and the Red Sox, and called it quits after spending 1980 in Boston.

After retiring, Sizemore took a job with the Rawlings sporting goods company as a major league player liaison and rose to an executive position. Today, he's the CEO of the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization that helps out former players in times of need.

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Unfortunate "Knack"

This guy was present at three games in the 1970s that were forfeited due to misbehavior on the part of the fans:

Card #571 -- Rusty Torres, Cleveland Indians

In 1971, the Washington fans tore up the field to "celebrate" their exit from the city, but didn't wait for the end of the game. In 1974, Cleveland hosted a "Ten-Cent Beer Night" and the results weren't pretty. Finally, there was the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" in 1979. I outlined all three games on my other blog.

Rusty Torres is airbrushed into an Indians cap here, but the artist decided to leave his Yankee pinstripes intact. After coming up with the Yankees in 1971, he was dealt to Cleveland as part of the Graig Nettles trade, too late to get a picture of him in his correct uniform. Late in 1974, the Tribe sent him to California, but he spent all of 1975 in the minors. He spent two seasons with the Angels and another two with the White Sox, before finishing his major league career with the Royals in 1980. The next season, he signed with the Pirates but was unable to rise above the minors and hung up his spikes.

After his retirement, Torres was a baseball coach in Oyster Bay, New York and ran an organization called Winning Beyond Winning which teaches the importance of a well-rounded education in addition to excellence in sports. Unfortunately, Torres recently made the news for a disturbing accusation. Since this is an ongoing case, I'll avoid commenting on it other than to say that I hope he's innocent of the charges. If he's guilty, he should never be allowed around children again.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Game Breaker

This player holds the distinction of having the only hit in three one-hit games:

Card #424 -- Denny Doyle, Philadelphia Phillies

On July 18, 1972, Denny Doyle broke up a no-hit bid by Steve Arlin with two out in the ninth. To date, it is the closest and San Diego Padre pitcher has ever come to pitching one. He also ended up getting the only hit in games by guys named Nolan: Gary Nolan surrendered a two-run homer in one, and Nolan Ryan ended up getting the one-hitter in 1970. He would get more chances eventually, but he was still on the Mets then, another team that hasn't had any no-nos tossed by its staff.

Ironically, Doyle is regarded as one of the proverbial good field/no-hit infielders that were more common at that time. He came up in 1970 with the Phillies, went to the Angel in 1974 and was a platoon infielder for the Red Sox beginning in that magical 1975 season. He stayed in Boston until his retirement in 1977 and hit .250 for his career.

The next year, Doyle founded a baseball camp with his brothers Brain (also an ex-major leaguer) and Blake. They still run that camp today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Relocated "Bums"

When this picture was taken, this team was only fifteen years removed from Brooklyn:

Card #91 -- Los Angeles Dodgers Team Card

The Los Angeles Dodgers left their "lovable losers" tag at Ebbets Field, winning the World Series in their second year on the West Coast. Then, just to quiet any detractors who pointed out that they weren't facing the Yankees that year, they got their chance in 1963. Not only did they beat the Yanks, they swept them in four games (something nobody was able to do before). They added another ring two years later.

By 1972, the players who came over from Brooklyn were gone, even as manager Walt Alston remained and Junior Gilliam took a place on the coaching staff. The team still kept an eye on its history, though, by retiring the uniform numbers of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, along with Sandy Koufax's. They finished third that year, ten and a half games behind the Big Red Machine. 

In 1973, the Dodgers were more competitive. They finished in second behind the Reds, three and a half games out. Another coach who played with the team in Brooklyn joined the staff. He was Tommy Lasorda, and he would be the manager who led the team to two more World Series titles in the next decade.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Other "Campy"

Nicknames are sometimes a generational thing. If you grew up in the 1950s, "Campy" was Dodger catcher Roy Campanella. If you grew up in the 1970s, "Campy" was this guy:

Card #295 -- Bert Campaneris, Oakland A's

While this card shows Bert Campaneris posing with a bat in front of a batting cage, he shows up in the action for several other cards in the 1973 Topps set. Though he only played 13 seasons with the A's in both Kansas City and Oakland, he still holds the team record for games played, hits, putouts, assists and for double plays at shortstop. He retired with the most stolen bases, triples and at bats but those marks were surpassed by Rickey Henderson.

Campaneris had his share of career highlights. During his first game in 1964, he slammed two home runs, including one on the first pitch he ever saw. He was also the first player to ever take all nine positions on the field in a single game. That was in 1965, when owner Charlie Finley used him as part of a promotion. He has a decent hitter and fast baserunner, but he was most valuable to the team for his defensive abilities. He was a six-time All-Star and played a pivotal role in helping the A's win three straight World Series.

After the 1976 season, the A's started jettisoning its dynasty-era players and Campaneris went to the Rangers as a free agent. Age slowed him down and limited his playing time in 1978, and he was traded to the Angels the next year. After working in a platoon system and eventually becoming a reserve third baseman, he left the team after 1981 to play in the Mexican League. He wasn't done with the majors, though; in 1983 he played with the Yankees as a reserve player.

After retiring, Campaneris coached in Japan for a couple of years and played in the Senior League in the late 1980s.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pinch Hitter Extraordinaire

This guy taking a practice swing with an Adirondack bat was a member of the 1969 World Champions:

Card #87 -- Ken Boswell, New York Mets

Ken Boswell was a sure-handed second baseman but possessed a limited range. As a result, the Mets platooned him as a starter with Wayne Garrett, sending him up when a right-hander was scheduled to take the mound against them. While the platoon allowed him to play the bulk of the Mets' games in 1969, the Orioles only started one right-hander (Jim Palmer) in the five-game series and Garrett is thought of more as a member of the championship club.

Boswell  started more than 100 games each year from 1969 through '72, before the Mets acquired Felix Millan as an everyday second baseman. Boswell  then became a pinch-hitting specialist and filled in where he was needed. He tied a record by stroking three pinch hits in the 1973 Series. After 1974, the Mets traded Boswell to the Astros, where he continued to serve in that capacity for another three seasons.

A career .248 hitter, Boswell turned the level up in the postseason, with a .421 clip across two NLCS and two World Series.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Veteran of Two Tours of Duty in the Bronx

As a young collector, I knew this player because he wore Yankee pinstripes:

Card #102 -- Rudy May, California Angels

It was actually Rudy May's second tour of duty with the club. He was with the team from 1974-76 and then again from 1980-'83 to finish his career. And yes, I say "tour of duty" because that's a good description of the Yankee clubhouse during those years. The first tour was the early Steinbrenner era, when a new owner was weeding out what he thought were contributing elements of a losing team, and the second was an era of a managerial "revolving door."

May's first season was 1965, when he went 4-9 with the Angels. Between the military and more seasoning in the minors, he wouldn't return to the parent club until 1969. Despite an excellent curveball, he ran a 51-76 record in California before being traded to the Yankees early in the 1974 season. He rarely fell below the .500 mark after that, however, and posted a respectable 14 wins in 1975. In '76, he pitched the first game played in the "new" Yankee Stadium but was later involved in the massive 10-player trade between the Yanks and Orioles that impacted both teams for the next several seasons.

May pitched in Baltimore for two seasons and was traded to Montreal, where he spent two additional seasons. Before the 1980 campaign, he went back to the Yankees as a free agent. His 1980 season was a good one; he led the American League in ERA and posted a respectable 15 wins. He also made the postseason for the first time. He returned to the postseason in '81, and transitioned to the bullpen for the final two years of his career.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Right Turn, Clyde!"

Playing in the same Spring Training location where most of his Expos teammates would pose for their own cards, this player had just wrapped up what would prove to be his best season:

Card #401 -- Clyde Mashore, Montreal Expos

That wasn't saying a whole lot; Clyde Mashore played in 93 games, made 202 official appearances at the plate and hit .227. It was his fourth major league season and the first to see him hit over .200.

Mashore came up to the majors in 1969 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. He got into two games (one in July as a pinch hitter, and the other in September as a pinch runner), and both of them saw him take the field in the bottom of the ninth. He flied to right in his only plate appearance with the team, but scored in his pinch-running effort. The Reds weren't exactly hurting for outfielders, so Mashore went back to the minors for 1970 until he was traded to the Expos midway through the season.

He stayed in Montreal through 1973, mainly taking a spot in the outfield but occasionally playing where he was needed: off the bench, as a late-inning replacement and even handling second and third base for one game at each position. His son Damon Mashore played for Oakland and Anaheim from 1996-'98.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not-So-Young "Buck"

If it weren't for the presence of the slightly older Willie Stargell, this guy might have been seen as the "old guy" on the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates:

Card #396 -- Grant Jackson, Baltimore Orioles

Grant Jackson still performed abmirably, though. Facing his former team (and playing with the team he had faced in the 1971 Series), he was the winning pitcher of Game 7 after taking the mound while down 1-0 in the fifth inning and holding the O's scoreless until Kent Tekulve finished up. In the final game of the decade, a team that had been counted out too many times had shown what a little resilience and a lot of hard work can accomplish.

Jackson came up with the Phillies in 1965 and played with six different teams in an 18-year career. He was trade to the Orioles after the 1970 season and was part of the ten-player deal between the O's and Yankees in 1976. After appearing in that year's World Series, Jackson was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft but was dealt to Pittsburgh and stayed there through 1981. He bounced around after that, from the Expos to the Royals and back to the Pirates before retiring in 1982.

During his playing career, Jackson was largely a reliever and set-up man, except for a stint in the Phillies' rotation in 1969-'70. Although an 86-75 record, 79 saves and 886 strikeouts don't seem like much during an 18-year career, it's worth pointing out that he was part of six teams that eventually made the postseason.

After his retirement, Jackson moved into a coaching position with the Pirates and later with the Reds.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


This guy was known for refusing to use any profanity as a player:

Card #447 -- Joe Hague, Cincinnati Reds

It wasn't exactly because Joe Hague was worried about being a poor role model; his father had been a career Army sergeant, and he definitely used foul language when he was younger. Hague realized that it was a "crutch" and avoided using them. Instead, whenever he was feeling somwewhat saucy, he'd simply replace any offending word with the term "mullet." That term was not yet in vogue as a name for a hairstyle, but George Kennedy used it in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, so it was in use back then. Still, I wonder if that ever confused teammate Don Gullett.

Shown here during pregame warmups, Hague was new to the Reds in 1972. He had been signed by the Cardinals in 1966 and smacked a grand slam in his first professional at-bat. He made the parent club late in 1968 but was behind Orlando Cepeda on the depth chart at first base. When Cepeda was traded the next year, he was ready to start but had some issues hitting the ball. As a result, he went back to the minors and worked on his problems, regaining a starting job in right field by 1970. In 1972, he was traded to the Reds for Bernie Carbo.

He helped the Reds get to the World Series in 1972, but a hand injury in 1973 hastened the end of his major league career.

Sadly, Hague died in 1994 at the age of 50.